Rear-view mirror, poker edition: Just how bad was that bad beat?

June 6, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 6, 2016

I’ve already told you about my bad beat last week in a three-handed tournament against E.A. and B.B. But I wanted to explain just how bad a beat it really was.

As I wrote Sunday’s post, I noodled around with this holdem odds calculator. It told me that E.A.’s win probability at the hand’s start was 7 percent.

Depending on what suits B.B.’s cards were, which I don’t recall, her win probability was somewhere between about 1.2 percent if one of her cards wasn’t one of the suits I held and two-hundredths of one percent if she held the same suits I did. (Her problem in the latter case was that I had higher cards in both suits, meaning she could only win with an extremely rare straight flush, the odds of which Wolfram puts at 72,192.3:1.)

My odds of winning were directly tied to B.B.’s suits; they hovered between 83 to 85 percent.

I don’t remember the suits of the community cards, but I found that something along the lines of what happened — I modeled nine, seven and five coming out on the flop, giving my foes an inside straight draw but no flush possibility — pushed my winning probability down a bit, to 79.6 percent.

My likelihood of finishing on top jumped back up to anywhere from about 80 percent to 90 percent with a harmless turn card…

…and it would have reached 100 percent if any card other than a six had landed on the river. But that, of course, didn’t happen.

In the hours and days after this tournament, I wrestled with the decision I’d made to call the all-ins by E.A. and B.B. Pocket kings, as mentioned, is an excellent hand; it’s hard to fold them. And if you had told me that both of my opponents held queen-eight, then that’s a no-brainer — I would have called with hardly a moment’s thought.

On the other hand, perhaps I made a strategic error in trying to fight two opponents at the same time. Arguably, the wiser move would have been to sit on the sidelines until either E.A. or (more likely) B.B. had been knocked out of the tournament.

But I don’t know. Sometimes, you do everything right and it just doesn’t work out through no fault of your own. That can be true in life as well as in poker.

So what do you think?

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